The National University were only vulnerable for just one day in the UAAP Season 81 Men’s Volleyball Tournament, and never gave the rest of the league of a chance the rest of the way.
Besting the team that beat them on opening day, the Bulldogs earned a second straight UAAP championship, completing a Finals sweep of the Far Eastern University Tamaraws in Game Two, 24-26, 25-23, 25-23, 25-19, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
NU also claimed their fourth title in seven straight Finals appearances.
Each set came down to the final plays. FEU saw a 24-22 first set advantage evaporate thanks to two kills from NU’s off-the-bench spark Madz Gampong. But the deuce did not last long, as FEU countered with consecutive group blocks on James Natividad.
Season 81 MVP Bryan Bagunas then took charge in the next two sets. The Batangas native scored six of NU’s last nine points in the second set, including the set-clincher. Bagunas again dominated the conclusion of the third frame, powering in three kills in the last five points to lift NU out of another tight spot.
FEU, who had starting setter Owen Suarez go down to an injury at the tail-end of the third set, continued to stay within range of NU in the fourth set. However, Rookie of the Year Nico Almendras and Bagunas pushed their squad to a 19-15 edge. NU errors then fueled an FEU run that had them within one, 20-19. Bagunas and graduating skipper Francis Saura shut down the Tamaraws one last time, collecting blocks and kills that sealed the season.
Bagunas, Saura, Gampong, and Kim Malabunga all closed their UAAP careers with a title.
Captain Richard Solis and open hitter Rj Paler played their final UAAP game for FEU.